Home > A Little Country Christmas(2)

A Little Country Christmas(2)
Author: Carolyn Brown

“I usually just tried to pretend the Christmas season was like any other time of year.” Dixie shrugged. “I got by with telling myself I didn’t need any of it. But I’ll be honest, it was hard as a kid.”

Landon felt a distinct pang in his heart. “Princess Sally needs a Christmas tree, and so do you, Dixie,” he said. “As soon as you close the shop, we’ll bundle this little girl up and go cut down a small cedar at the ranch.” Sally waved her little fists in the air as if she were in total agreement.

“How would we even decorate it? We don’t have any ornaments.” She tucked a stray strand of hair behind her ear and cocked her head to one side. Landon could tell by her expression that she was warming to the idea.

“See all those quilting scraps?” He pointed to the cutting table. “I can cut circles out of those, and you can sew them together. They’ll be like little round ornaments, and we can string some popcorn for a garland or maybe we could just bunch up some strips of burlap and use it for garland, and we’ll make a star out of that cardboard box. We could glue some of that gold-lookin’ fabric to it…”

“And maybe put some glitter glue around the edges. Yes…that could work. What about lights?” she asked.

“There’s already lights around the window frame,” he answered. “We’ll set it right over there in that bare spot in front of the window. The sun will light it up in the day, and the moon and stars will be the lights for it at night.”

“You’ve got quite an imagination there, cowboy. And an answer for everything it seems,” she said with a smile. “How could I possibly say no?”

He grinned back at her. “I’ve got to take that load of feed out there to the ranch, but I’ll be done unloading it by five. Can you and Sally be ready a few minutes after that?”

“Sure!” she said with enthusiasm.

“Down,” Sally demanded.

“She may not know many words, but she knows what she wants.” Landon set her on the clean floor.

The baby crawled over to a cardboard box that held her toys, picked up her favorite teddy bear, and then went right back to Landon and reached up with one arm.

“Go,” she said.

“We can’t go right now,” Dixie started to explain.

Sally’s chin quivered, and tears flooded her cheeks.

“It’s only thirty minutes until you close up.” Landon picked up the child and settled back down with the baby and the teddy bear in his lap. “I can wait that long, and then I won’t have to drive back into town. She can play with Little Bit and the kittens while I unload the feed.”

“She loves that little miniature donkey, but it’s all right if she gets disappointed once in a while. You’re spoiling her, you know,” Dixie told him.

“And I intend to keep doing just that. After all, I’m only here another couple of weeks before heading back out to my brothers’ ranches.” He picked up one of the little girl’s books. “Let’s read about Frosty the Snowman. If we get a white Christmas, and the folks out at the ranch tell me we just might, you and your mama and I might make a snowman like Frosty right out there in the front yard. We’ll take a picture of you in front of your first Christmas tree and one with your snowman and one of you sitting on Santa’s lap.”

“Looks to me like she’s quite enjoying your lap right now,” Dixie said and smiled.

“I saw a flyer that said Santa was going to be at the Sunset Volunteer Fire Department, and Hud is dressing up like Santa this year. The local ladies in the community are going to have cookies, and the fire department is giving away bags of fruit and nuts. We need a picture of Sally to go with all the others we’ll take while we’re—” He stopped before he said something about the whole Christmas experience. “So we can make a Christmas album for her. If you make one every year, then she can look at them all when she’s grown and remember all the good times.”

“Do you have a set of albums like that?” Dixie swept up scraps of fabric from the floor.

“I did,” Landon sighed. “They were stored at my friend’s house in Paradise, California, but when his house burned up in that big wildfire last year, we weren’t able to save them.”

“I remember hearing about that fire, and I felt so sorry for those people. I know what it’s like to be in a fire,” she said. “I’m sorry that you lost all those pictures.” Dixie patted him on the shoulder as she headed down the hall. “If I’d had something like that and lost it, that would devastate me.”

“I’ve got to admit to a few tears, and big boys aren’t supposed to cry,” he said.

“Neither are big girls, but believe me, I’ve sure shed my share of tears over a lot less than that,” Dixie said. “Maybe tears are just a way to let the grief out of our souls.”

“I like that thought.” He smiled. “To tell the truth, I hadn’t grieved much for my mother until then.”

“That gave you an outlet for your pain,” she said. “I should get our coats and hats.”

“And maybe a blanket or quilt to wrap this baby up in while we chop down a tree,” Landon suggested. That wasn’t what he wanted to say to Dixie—not by a long shot. He wanted to tell her that he’d had feelings for her from the first time he saw her and that they’d deepened through the past three months as he’d gotten to know her better. He had known what it was like to be raised by a single mother, so he could understand Dixie’s struggles. He admired her too much—liked her too much—to ever give her a moment’s heartache or pain, and he wasn’t sticking around that part of Texas.

* * *

 

Dixie took time to brush her hair, pull it up into a ponytail, and apply a little lipstick before she gathered up her heaviest coat and a little snowsuit that Retta had given her when her own child, Annie, had outgrown it. Just to be on the safe side, though, she picked up a quilt like Landon suggested, along with the diaper bag.

She hadn’t been a bit surprised at the little spark of electricity that popped when she touched Landon on the shoulder. From the first time she shook hands with him at the ranch and he’d stepped in that gopher hole, there had been chemistry between them. If she’d tried to get him out of her mind, it would have been impossible, what with all the teasing from the ladies at the two ranches about Landon’s “proposal.” Since that day, their friendship had kept growing, and she’d learned to admire him more and more. His heart was as big as Texas, and he was constantly doing sweet little things, like making sure she and Sally had a Christmas tree.

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